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Killer of 7-year-old San Antonio girl executed

Man convicted in rape, strangling of San Antonio girl, 7, put to death after appeals exhausted By The Associated Press

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) ' A convicted sex offender was put to death Wednesday evening for slipping into a San Antonio apartment in the middle of the night, snatching a 7-year-old girl and raping and strangling her.

Guadalupe Esparza, 46, asked for forgiveness before Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials administered lethal drugs into his arms.

"To the family of Alyssa Vasquez, I hope you will find peace in your heart," he said. "My sympathy goes out to you. I hope you find it in your heart to forgive me. I don't know why all of this happened."

He was pronounced dead 11 minutes later, at 6:21 p.m. CST.

Appeals were exhausted and no late legal maneuvers were made to keep Esparza, 46, of San Antonio, from becoming the 13th Texas inmate to receive lethal injection this year. A clemency petition was rejected Monday by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

The battered body of Alyssa Maria Vasquez was found in some weeds behind a convenience store near her home hours after she was reported missing in June 1999. A baby sitter who discovered her gone identified Esparza as having visited the residence earlier that night. The child's mother, Diana Berlanga, told authorities she met Esparza at a bar and he'd been calling her even though she'd given him the brushoff.

Police went to his apartment about two miles away and found some blood-spotted clothing belonging to him in a trash bin. When semen found on the slain girl's body was linked to him through DNA testing, Esparza was charged with capital murder.

"He tried to blame it on somebody else," Terry McDonald, one of his trial lawyers, said. "He was not a very repentant individual ... just a constant denial that it wasn't him, the facts to the contrary."

From death row, Esparza continued to insist he was innocent.

"I'm not capable of doing anything like this," he recently told the San Antonio Express-News.

A judge who authorized a review of DNA in the case was told last week the findings were consistent with the evidence during Esparza's 2001 trial, where his attorneys had challenged the validity of the results.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review claims he was mentally impaired and ineligible for execution. Last month, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected an attempt to renew that claim and others questioning whether he had effective legal help at his trial.

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Related Keywords:Texas Execution,Crime,Violent crime,General news,Criminal punishment,Law and order


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